Shall We Meet? — Quotidian — 388
(Transcript of video originally posted on 21 Apr 2022)
Enakku 20. Unakku 18. This movie came out way back in 2003. A.R.Rahman’s music! Do you remember this song?!
So, lyrics by Pa. Vijay… Meet? Yes. But, what is so special about July Breeze and Jupiter?! I discovered this.
I realised… that there is something special about the wind in July. Only on the first of July, the wind blowing across Chennai, the Westerly wind, blows the strongest.. When things are blowing around very very strongly, … Shall we meet?!
Also, we all know — Jupiter’s gravity is the highest among all the planets. It is two and a half times the gravity in earth, and probably… when the “gravity of the situation” is very high, think about meeting! (Not otherwise!)
There was this book I recently bumped into called Creative Selection. His name is Ken Kocienda, and he is one of the luckiest, .. or probably the most unlucky, I really can’t say. People who worked directly under Steve Jobs, people who worked on the cutting edge of cutting edge technologies. He was the guy who actually created some of the things we take for granted today.
One of them, is the Keyboard Autocorrect. It could be on iOS, Android, your laptop, your tablet, could be any device, actually. But, if you are typing something and it autocorrects, it is highly likely the concept was born in this person’s hand. He talks about how decisions were made. He talks about a concept called Creative Selection. I am going to come back to this guy later, we are going to talk about it in length, but… he also refers to collaboration. How did they come together? How did they bring different thinkers together and do something amazing… That story.. That question.. He gives an odd kind of answer.
This is the product that they used long before the iPhone really became a product. They called it the Wallaby. And, the Wallaby, a little thing in your pouch, your pocket, this wallaby was connected to a Macintosh and it would simulate whatever the eventual iPhone would show as an independent device.
These were the various keyboards he experimented with. In fact, if this guy’s first version had come out, we would be using a keyboard LIKE THIS ONE!
Or, a keyboard like this one where some keys had three letters on them and some had two letters on them, and so on!
But, we all now use this one! Why? And How? Half the book is about it! The author has done such a good job of the writing that he has made a topic like “How did I design a keyboard?!” so immensely interesting!
He talks about collaboration, and he says, “Don’t just take it for granted that we collaborated. We collaborated in a specific way.. The How is important..”
“We showed demos to each other. Every major feature started as a demo. It had to be concrete, it had to be crisp and specific”.
We didn’t sit in a room, talking, with whiteboards, markers, water, snacks, coffee, just talking into the air. Every one of us did work, and came together for demos. When a demo happened, every one had something to show.
It was a really really powerful gut punch!
I was reminded of the Golden Gate Bridge. I have been there a couple of times.. and once, I had the opportunity to take my son along, and we had this beautiful photo opportunity.
This is the cable! This is how large the cable is.. But, what is more interesting, what is more relevant to what i am saying now, is… what is that? That cable? It is composed of cables! Do you see that? Each is a little cable. All packed together.
In fact, if you look at the stats, there are 27,572 cables packed into the main cable!
It told me that… there is this thing called Tensile Strength. Instead of a single thick cable, using a thousand very thin cables pointed in the same direction with the same vision, makes it much stronger and much longer lasting.
That is what Ken Kocienda says: it wasn’t one person driving the show, everybody else following what he said. Each of us had a vision, had a mission, we worked on it, we came together very frequently for demo days!
Anyway, whatever the scenario may be, meetings are bound to happen.. People say some senior managers spend thirty to fifty percent of their time in meeting, preparing for meeting, analysing after meeting, … and so on!
There are various kinds of meetings. Let us look at a few!
The first kind of meeting is the classic Dumbledore addressing everybody in that Grand Hall. He has a lot of things to say. Nobody is going to crossquestion him. This meeting is important. Because it is the inaugural meeting.. It is a “Hey everybody, listen to me, I have something to share with you all!” Such meetings will happen in your company too… And, for those meetings, can there be some bits of advice? Well, all researchers, all advisors, point to this one thing: Have something circulated before the meeting starts. What the meeting is about, what it is going to address, what news it is about, there may be people who will miss the meeting, it will be useful for them too. The second bit of advice they give? Have a Q and A at the end. It can even be in a quiz form! Ask them, did they “get” it? And finally, just don’t allow somebody to raise a finger from the last bench, and say, “This can’t happen!” These people who shake the very foundation of things, they are not allowed in this room! So, these are “Everybody, just so you know, may this be announced” kinda meetings!
Okay, there are meetings like this one too! These meetings could be called Status Update meetings. We have seen that in Money Heist! Each is a specialist. Each has been doing something very important while the other thought they had been doing something very important! In round-robin fashion, each person should be asked for an update, their update should be timed! A two- or five-minute timer should be used! Each person’s update, as an email or a written note, should reach the meeting convener. And, the meeting convener should collate everything and distribute it as notes from the meeting, to everyone, before an hour goes by after the meeting. This is the Status Update meeting.
There is a third kind of meeting. I would call that the “Collecting Opinions” meeting. “Macchi, Nee sollu”? Remember the Karunas dialogue in the Pollaadhavan movie? You are totally stuck. You don’t know the answer. You don’t know who knows the answer. You are shooting in the dark. Again, you do round robin. You invite everybody to speak. But, an important advice that people give here is, “Some people are doers, they are not speakers. You can’t put them on a spotlight and ask them to come up with an idea on the spot. They will cut a poor image. They will delay the proceedings. Such people, please deal with them one-to-one, offline, don’t invite them to these meetings. They are more productive elsewhere”. Again, collate the inputs, do not say “Yes, No, Great, Bad” immediately when collecting feedback, because, the next person may feel bad.. “Oh my God, this guy is finding faults even with this good idea.. He is going to lacerate me if he heard mine!” Collect, absorb like a sponge, get back to them individually.
Finally, we have this… extremely vital… deadline. This HAS to be decided.. The decision HAS to be taken today. The deadline has come. It is staring at us.. Like in the Baba movie. “Baba Counting Starts.. 1. Whoosh. 2. Whoosh. 3. Whoosh..!” There will be times like this too! Every company, every organisation, every team, goes through such a thing. And, the advice they give for such a situation is, “Finish when the TIME is up. Don’t finish only when the DECISION is made! (Only then, you have a chance of a good decision being taken!)” If somebody opens with “A meeting is being planned. An important decision is pending. All of you, please come”, the first question should be, “How long will this meeting run!” — set the timer. Only then will a sense of urgency be felt, and you will converge to at least a local maxima. That’s the advice from our Baba.
As far as I am concerned though, there is only one little advice I give to all my teammates who try to convene meetings: Before allowing people to enter the meeting room, right at the entrance, have a large jug of water, and a tall tumbler. I am sure you got the message! Thank you!
Meet you next week! Bye bye!